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A version of this chapter appears in the Handbook of Resilience in Children edited - page 15 / 18

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R. Brooks:  The Power of Parenting                                                                              

When children initiate their own plans of action with the guidance of parents, their sense of ownership and control is reinforced, as is their resilience.

10.  Disciplining in Ways that Promote Self-Discipline and Self-Worth.  To be a disciplinarian is one of their most important roles that parents assume in nurturing resilience in their children.  In this role parents must remember that the word discipline relates to the word disciple and thus is a teaching process.  The ways in which children are disciplined can either reinforce or erode self-esteem, self-control, and resilience.

Two of the major goals of effective discipline are: (a) to ensure a safe and secure environment in which children understand and can define rules, limits, and consequences, and (b) to reinforce self-discipline and self-control so that children incorporate these rules and apply them even when parents are not present.  A lack of consistent, clear rules and consequences often contributes to chaos and to children feeling that their parents do not care about them.  On the other hand, if parents are harsh and arbitrary, if they resort to yelling and spanking, children are likely to learn resentment rather than self-discipline.

There are several key principles that parents can follow to employ discipline techniques that are positive and effective.  Given the significant role that discipline plays in parenting practices and in nurturing resilience, they are described in detail:

Practice prevention.  It is vital for parents to become proactive rather than reactive in their interactions with their children, especially in regard to discipline.  For example, discipline problems were minimized in one household when a young, hyperactive boy was permitted to get up from the dinner table when he could no longer remain seated.  This approach proved far more effective than the previous one used by the parents, namely, to yell and punish him; when a punitive atmosphere was removed, this boy also learned greater self-control.  In another home a boy’s tantrums at bedtime ended when he was allowed to have a nightlight in his room and keep a photo of his parents by his bedside (both were his ideas to deal with nightmares he was experiencing).

Work as a Parental Team.  In homes with two parents, it is important that parents set aside time for themselves to examine the expectations they have for their children as well as the discipline they use.  This dialogue can also occur between divorced parents.  While parents cannot and should not be clones of each other, they should strive to arrive at common goals and disciplinary practices, which most likely will involve negotiation and compromise.  This negotiation should take place in private and not in front of their children.

Be Consistent, Not Rigid.  The behavior of children sometimes renders consistency a Herculean task.  Some children, based on past experience, believe that they can outlast their parents and that eventually their parents will succumb to their whining, crying, or tantrums.  If guidelines and consequences have been established for acceptable behavior, it is important that parents adhere to them.  However, parents must remember that consistency is not synonymous with rigidity or inflexibility.  A consistent approach to discipline invites thoughtful modification of rules and consequences such as when a child reaches adolescence and is permitted to stay out later on the weekend.  When modifications are necessary, they should be discussed with children so that they understand the reasons for the changes and can offer input.

Select One’s Battlegrounds Carefully.  Parents can find themselves reminding and disciplining their children all day long.  It is important for parents to ask what behaviors merit discipline and which are not really relevant in terms of nurturing responsibility and resilience.  Obviously, behaviors concerning safety deserve immediate attention.  Other behaviors will be based on the particular values and expectations in the house.  If children

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